Robert Rock (Getty Images)
Matteo Manassero and Robert Rock go head-to-head in Morocco on Thursday and Friday with a place in the Masters Tournament up for grabs.
In the two months since he beat Tiger Woods and the Official World Golf Ranking's top four in Abu Dhabi Rock has slipped from 55th to 57th in the world, but he has this one last chance to climb into the top 50 and earn a debut at Augusta National.
The 34 year old could make it by coming first or second in the Trophée Hassan II at the Royal Palace course in Agadir, although a runner-up finish might see him thwarted by others - Ernie Els included - competing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.
For 18 year old Italian Manassero, currently 61st, only a victory will do and his second place at the Open de Andalucía Costa del Sol last Sunday takes him into the event with high hopes.
Rock was one off the lead at halfway last year over the same course, but rather than grabbing his first victory dropped back to 19th eight strokes behind fellow Englishman David Horsey.
“This is a really beautiful venue and I think all the players are having a great time here,” said Manassero. “The hotel is great, the city itself is lovely with really beautiful beaches and the golf course itself is just great. This is the first time that I have been here and I am really enjoying it.
“When I got here for the first time I actually was a little bit intimidated to be coming into King’s Palace. When you approach the gates you realise you are coming to a special place and then the atmosphere once you are here is great.
“When you are walking around the golf course you realise what a special privilege it is to play here. Not many people get to play the course so it is always in perfect condition. When you add the perfect weather into that then you have a situation that every golfer loves.
“I have been to Rabat before but Agadir is very different. There is a lot to do and it is always great fun for us to come to Africa because it is such a different continent to what we are used to. The hospitality we have received here is amazing.”
Manassero’s compatriot Francesco Molinari was equally impressed by the stunning surroundings for this week’s event.
The Ryder Cup star, who partners defending champion David Horsey and 2010 winner Rhys Davies for the first two rounds, said: “It is great to be here and the golf course is in great shape and the design of the course is very, very impressive. I heard so much about the place before I came here that I have to say my expectations were very high and so far nothing has disappointed.
“This is a very special tournament with a very special history so to now be able to play here on The European Tour is great. Some of the names that have played here in the past are some of the biggest names to have ever played our sport so it is great to be here.
“I was a little bit surprised when I arrived and saw the Palace walls and it has been great to just be allowed in here to play and take in the surroundings. When you get into the Palace grounds and see the condition of the golf course you realise that you are in a special place. We don’t get to play many other courses that are in as good conditions this one.”